16 December 2010

Onwards to 2011

We had our grading last night.  Nice to see a few more people made Purple belt after a gruelling 10 rounds of fun for them.  It’s a nice way to end out the year.  For me there was no rank improvement, for which I’m grateful!  I’m actually quite happy staying where I am, while I rebuild my game. 

As it was, part of my game I’ve been trying to get under control is the scissor sweep. It’s funny how you can have months of frustration with a technique, then suddenly it all comes together. Twice last night I surprised my training partners even though they knew it was coming.  It was really a combination of the following:

  1. Speed (Decide when to “go”, then make sure you aren’t doing it lethargically)
  2. Space (create lots of space with the hips, kicking away with their legs if needed and sit up)
  3. Timing (knowing when to stop pushing to make space with legs and arms and when to start pulling)
  4. Grips (using the grips to pull the person forward into the hole, keep contact with their legs and hips too at all times)
  5. Momentum (Not stalling or stopping at any point between these parts, sit-up while creating space and lie down while sweeping)

I’ve been working on different set ups but the single biggest improvement has been wrapping the opponents gi behind their back and using that as the grip instead of the lapel inside the collar.  The real breakthrough though came with the realisation I need to move back, sit-up and create lots of space, then make the person chase me down and use their momentum against them.  It’s a timing thing, which brings me to what I want to improve in 2011.

Here is a short list of things that I want to improve.

  1. Timing (right speed and using the right momentum of the opponent)
  2. Efficiency – being able to increase my work rate but not gas by being efficient
  3. Create a simultaneous defend attack mentality

There were some really good things I did in 2010, the biggest I think was resistance drilling and focusing on a position.  So for 2011 I’m going to train the following ways:

  1. Position of the month – work entries, exits, submissions, flows from this position
  2. Trigger flows – multi-position setups to account for action/reaction
  3. Each training revise of one of these basics – guard sweep,  guard pass, side control pass and escape, mount control and escape, cross collar choke submission (all positions)  and variations, back control.
  4. 70% effort with 100% timing – keep my timing fast against training partners
  5. Applied concepts – learn underlying concepts (angles, stiff arms, sit-up, hip control etc) and understand every concept for every technique I work on.

I’m planning to make 2011 a technical learning year.  One where my wrestling fitness does improve, but my focus is on making my BJJ more efficient for me.  I will start writing out each move individually and finding out how all the underlying concepts apply to that particular move or technique.

14 December 2010

Robert Drysdale Seminar Review

Robert Drysdale visited my wonderful state of Queensland (QLD)  this past weekend.  Must say, this is the first time I’ve been to a seminar held by someone outside of Australia.  It’s a nice change, to get a different perspective on things.

The seminar itself was split up into two halves.  For the first half Drysdale went over some techniques he wanted to go through.  The second half was a Question and Answers session.  This I felt was both good and bad,  the questions and answers meant it was a bit harder to follow and remember all of the different techniques from the first half of the seminar.

Firstly I’ll discuss his mannerisms.  I found him to be a very quietly spoken well-mannered individual.  I was highly impressed with how he spoke, especially the language, tone and respect he gave everyone.  Big Kudus there as I didn’t find him intimating at all to talk too.

I found the technique fine details difficult to remember as it was disparate techniques around an idea.  In this case it was about takedowns and defending takedowns.   I think people were taken back by this as it’s not something we practise often. I say disparate techniques as it jumped around and didn’t tackle the same issue from different set ups. 

This teaching style was mainly visual and oral.  I would have preferred if he also had a white board even for a flow chart of the names of the techniques.  I find it’s much easier to remember everything we’ve covered if you do it this way.  I felt fine points were missing because because of the number of techniques covered.  I could sense this from the number of times he had to stop and iterate a fine details that people weren’t doing. 

I think this increased because we jumped around to different techniques.  Personally I  prefer John Will’s style of teaching – he picks a topic and shows you all types of ways to get to and use that position/move.  He incorporates simple words AND white boards.  I find this helps greatly with remembering.

Technique wise he showed some great stuff.  Then again I felt there was little details in some cases then really great details in other cases.  So it was a mixed bag so to speak.  I found what was really good was him just talking.  There he often gave great nuggets of information that you know are gold and can immediately put into your game.   Overall these bits of information were more related to concepts.  It would have been great if he taught around the concepts not an individual technique.

Questions and Answer part was quite good.  I asked immediately about training intensity and not going 100%.  One key thing he said was, don’t go limp and not fight for grips etc if you are going at an easier pace.  Don’t just give the guy stuff and go slow otherwise your timing will be bad.  This is the exact problem I’m having.  So I’ll be working out how to stay relaxed and not go with intensity, but still get what I need to done.  He did say, that you should never go hard enough that you gas yourself out in going for a submission or something.  Once you are gassed out even a new white belt can beat you.

Other questions revolved around x-guard, de la riva, brabo chokes and counter’s to knee bar defence (figure four legs).  I did find the answer to my question really provided me with great insight. Another great insight was the whole “steps” people take.  We use those because we need to learn the steps, but the reality is often we need to make all the steps happen at the same time or very close to each other.  Even a little pause gives a person a chance to make a minor balance adjustment and completely negate your move.

Overall it was a solid seminar. However the hardest part by far was remembering the fine details to all of the techniques we did because they didn’t link and build upon each other.  I’m glad he answered my question and he even answered  the heart of the issue I was having without even being told.

The key things that he covered that can directly help me now include:

  • Escaping the Half guard lockdown
  • Fantastic grip for attacking someone that has you in half guard
  • Entry to De La Riva
  • Concepts around simultaneous steps and keeping momentum
  • Answer to my problem of timing
  • Single leg defence
  • Takedown combo.


10 December 2010

Reflections for 2010

image2010 has been a  big year for me…no a massive year!  The best change was marrying an awesome girl.  This meant that the first half was very much taken up with wedding preparations and then the honeymoon. 

During this time I didn’t forget about BJJ.  The hiatus I took from my gym I feel was good for my outlook on training and what it was I really wanted to achieve in BJJ.  It’s interesting seeing how things have evolved.  I really decided to change my base philosophy in the second half of the year.  The hardest part was the mindset,  I wasn’t going to use strength and explosiveness to out muscle my partners in sparring. 

So I focussed many months just working resistance drills with a friend,  getting into the problem solving mindset,  exploring areas in detail.  Learning to use timing, and not resisting for the sake of it. The downside is by not going hard I’m I finding my partners are now submitting me a lot more than I am them.

Most times,  it’s because they are going harder and that increased pace gives them more opportunity.  Not always, there are people that definitely have a skill advantage AND use power – normally I get crushed in these circumstances.  Still I’m happy,  I feel like I’m learning and progressing in a way that is more technical and provides me the opportunity to go for hours.

Open mats previously revolved around me being exhausted after one 10 minute roll – needing a 10 minute break for another 5 minute roll.  My opponent would be exhausted too.  Now,  I’m usually rolling for 2 hours straight.  I try to ask my opponents to ease off the muscle and can they roll like that for an hour,  most admit that they get too excited and worked up and can’t.  Still,  I find the non technical ones may submit me once or twice, but they want to stop after 5 minutes because they are exhausted.  I’m not trying to brag about how long I can train.  I’m one of the least fit guys in the gym,  I can’t even run 5km’s.  I just choose a pace I can go I can maintain and really focus on structure and leverage to wear my opponent out.

Still the important thing is I’m having fun!  I’m having fun not taking my rolls like it’s do or die.  I’m not sure what people think of it in my gym, whether they see me as a weak blue.  I don’t care,  I’m having fun and trying to evolve to how higher level guys roll…it’s just going to take awhile.

30 November 2010

Mind Vs. Reality

imageI my mind when I think about how I want to so easily impose my game.  Be able to flow from one move to the next and essentially have my partner have no idea on how to keep up.  I can imagine myself effortless chaining armbars into sweeps and making it look easy.  Move like a butterfly, sting like a bee.

The reality is starkly different.

I’m often jerky and slow.  I don’t attack that well.  I’m often stuck on my back.  I get lazy and start to rest when I should be moving.  I can’t get arm bars at all, I’m always out of position.  I can’t get chokes,  it feels like they are always defending and so much stronger.  This can come from just having one or two bad rolls.

It’s funny, if I can’t impose any of my game plan on someone it can be quite deflating.  Admittedly I’m not going flat out any more, but still I feel that I should be able to flow and impose a game plan against people going hard.

I feel I have more technical knowledge than most.   This comes from knowing all the finer points that most people forget, and I see that they have forgotten in drilling.  However I’m struggling translating technical knowledge into ground advantage.

I feel my timing is off.  Windows of opportunity are passing me by and I’m just powerless to stop it.  This I imagine frustrates a lot of BJJ practitioners.  The problem is the other guy (or girl).  They are learning too, and I imagine in their own mind would also see themselves as rolling the way I envision I want to roll.

I want to be a butterfly,  yet I’m just a slimy slug atm.  I know what I want to do, but it’s so far away right now.  I guess that’s why I’m liking the going back to basics.  Re-assessing everything I know about BJJ.

Hopefully one day I’ll stop being such a slug.  For now I have to learn how to quicken my timing to take advantages of tactical errors.


22 November 2010

70% Effort

image I’ve started asking my partners in training to go at 70%.  It seems every time I roll with people at my gym they want to go at 110% like it’s a competition.  A few things always happen.

  1. There is lots of stalling and getting ‘stuck’.
  2. You get to practise very few positions as everything is a grind.
  3. Frustration usually occurs
  4. Rapid tiredness

My theory is this:  If I’m able to roll for 40 minutes straight instead of 6 minutes then I’m going to be practising a ton more positions and rolls. I can refine my timing!

At my gym it seems people prefer rolling to drills, and to me this seems like a good compromise if I have to train with those people. So I’m asking my partners not to go at 100%,  purposely have more give and take in the rolls.  My first roll went for 20 minutes straight and we both had fun! We both got a ton of positions, submission attempts and escapes – what more could you ask for in a roll.

It did have some side effects, like a lot more laughter and fun being had. The nice thing was it still achieved my goal of getting more repetition.  I got to get to the same positions far more often and could experiment far more rapidly. I could start to see two moves ahead, and even guide my partner into positions I wanted by opening up something.  My partner too was relishing the non-competitiveness of this and attempting rolling arm-bars and other such things that you rarely get to try.

So many other sports rarely train at 100%,  I wonder why Jui-Jitsu guys feel the need to always train like it’s a competition?  To me this seems unhealthy and counter-productive to actually progressing your skills.  You don’t see it in other sports,  it’s not like Football players play competitive football every training session,  or golfers play rounds of golf.

Food for thought.


03 November 2010

Slow and Steady

Training has been going slow and steady for me as of late.  I’m just getting back into my old gym and trying to step up in a few areas.   One thing I didn’t want this blog to be is a, oh I trained this tonight.  I wanted it to be more of a reflective blog about the basics of BJJ.  So part of that has seen me go back to the beginner class in an assistant instructor rule.  Essentially being someone else’s test dummy.

The great thing about this is,  I get to practise all the fundamental moves.  I have limitations,  flexibility being the main one.  I’m going to start sacrificing strength for more flexibility.  It'll take time, but I think in the long term the transition is the correct one to make.

As for training, I’m taking things slow and steady.  I need my rest days, and I am definitely looking forward to improving my teaching style.  I’m of the belief that you can be great at something, but you might not be the best teacher.  This fits in with my long term goals. 

  1. Master the basics
  2. Make BJJ a part of my life
  3. Develop strong connections with people from all circles of life.

I guess technique area’s I’m looking to improve are guard sweeps and passing to mount.

26 October 2010

Flexibility and Arm Bars

I’ve struggled with arm bars.  You see I’m not the most flexible person in the world,  I can’t even touch my toes if my legs are straight,  both my hamstrings and back are really stiff.  So often I find myself in very uncomfortable positions well before most people do, especially when it comes to stacking. 

The thing with the stack for say Arm bar from guard is that I feel way to much pressure before they have over committed to the stack.  It frustrates me that such a large part of the BJJ is difficult for me because I don’t even have average flexibility,  I’m within the bottom 5% I’d say. 

Anyway, I’ve already vowed to improve my flexibility.  I wish I had a time machine as I’d go back to when I was 12 years old and tell myself  to stretch everyday. I know it will take awhile but I’m hoping I can at least touch my toes comfortably in 6 months time.

As for the arm bar stacking I’ve learn some good pointers so far.  Don’t cross your legs as you lose downward force, raise your hips and lastly rotate underneath them, creating a fulcrum point with my body when they over-commit the stack.   I don’t consider arm bars part of my game, I do need them though to generate threat from my true goal,  the choke.  Still two aspects let me down,  flexibility and timing.  For me,  both of which will take time to solve.


22 October 2010

Training with non-likeminded Training Partners

One thing I’m struggling with is to get some consistent training in atm.  I find my motivation for training really does depend upon the training partners I have available.  I find I just don’t connect too well with people from my school – they have a different outlook on life.  Which is fine,  it’s just hard to find someone who is a details person, and likes drilling over those finer details.

I find most people (not all) from my experience, either look down on other martial arts or those concepts of respect, courtesy, professionalism.  Instead, they often are bealching, swearing bogans (aussie term) which frustrates me.  So I’m going to work out how to thrive in that environment, and hopefully I can find one or two others that are like me.

For now, cause they like to wrestle I will just pick the exact same technique everytime I go out there…try to get to the same position, try to work back to that position.  I have my basic game play, so I’m hoping I can refine that down to it’s pure elements.  I feel comfortable passing peoples guard,  I don’t feel comfortable obtaining mount.  So I might try a catch and release style of training when doing live wrestling. Get mount, hold, get off mount…try to get mount again.

23 September 2010

Half Guard to Cross Collar Choke Analysis

I decided to have a break this week from training.  However after my last little successful module on closed guard I thought I’d start my research around my next major area I want to improve.   Just to be clear,  I’m not a youtube warrior and I’m not after anything fancy…in fact I’ll only look for really small simple stuff however I want the little details that make the difference.

So I’ve been doing some research on transitions that end up in the mount, and hopefully setup my favourite submission the Cross Collar Choke.  I’m naturally a slow moving guy on the ground and not that flexible.  So I’m after nice reliable and repeatable ways to get the mount.

I came across an outstanding breakdown video on Roger Gracie’s Cross Collar Choke that involves an analysis on how he transitions from Half Guard to Mount.  Fundamentally what I like about Roger Gracie (and this example) is how he just sticks to basics, and he has them down in such a minute detail that they really work for him.

I’ll give a breakdown from what the video talks about:

  1. Start in Half Guard, preferably on your opponents left side (as this will eventually set up your more dominate right handed grip for the choke)
  2. Close the space (which is a problem in itself)
  3. Get your right hand under their head reaching as deep as possible to grab under their right armpit with your right hand.
  4. The result should be your bicep is cutting across their Artery and you generate tremendous pressure via a pull push motion.
  5. Unravel their gi with your left hand and pass it across to your right hand
  6. tighten the grip by grabbing the lapel deep under their arm pit and lean over them more.  Don’t push your shoulder into their face, instead go for a deeper grip.
  7. Try to get your head inside their elbow (arm triangle setup) or just put your head all the way to the ground beside their right arm
  8. Turn your hips Anti-Clockwise a bit and straighten your right leg
  9. Your left leg should be bent coming with the knee coming up close to their butt
  10. Use your free left hand to push their right knee down so you can pass your left knee over the top of it
  11. When you finally free your foot bring your right knee high up under their armpit so you can secure a high mount immediately.  Do not lift your head off the ground
  12. Release the lapel with your right arm
  13. Loosen the lapel with your left hand while keep your head low
  14. Bring your right arm back around their head and secure the collar grip
  15. Use your left hand to help adjust the lapel to get a deeper grip
  16. Crunch down hard with your right elbow onto their chest, raising their head.
  17. Loosen the gi with your right hand
  18. Bring your left hand around and under their raised head keeping your left elbow inline with their spine
  19. secure the second grip and bring over to complete the choke
  20. Put your head on the mat above their head to finish it

I really like that this set up creates it’s pressure through a pull push action.  Like knee ride the end result is more than just your weight being applied.  I like that this pass and set up takes away the opponents ability to create space,  the only time is at the start after that you have no space to work with.  Lastly I like that it gets a dominate high mount immediately, and the pressure doesn’t end until you’ve achieved that. 

It should be noted I’ve seen Roger Gracie use his right foot on their hip in high mount to defend the upa.  So I think getting the high mount at least with the right leg is also critical to the success of this move.



16 September 2010

The Process of Rebuilding my Guard

tick Sometimes to move forward you have to tear down what you already have and rebuild.  Fix the foundation so to speak.  In my case I can compare my old guard game like a skyscraper made out of match sticks where it was so fragile that it would come crashing down at the slightest hint of a breeze.  Sure, it had a lot of facets to it, but it wasn’t sturdy or reliable. I’ve gone back and looked at a lot of my techniques in Guard, thrown out most and slowly tried to develop a plan for guard that involves good basic technique without the bells and whistles.  It’s now a modest house, but at least I can live in it.

My requirements were:

  • Closed Guard only, no open guard, half guard, De La Riva, X-Guard, Butterfly Guard etc
  • Gi and No Gi Grips (while using a Gi)
  • Exploiting Resistance with Timing, no strength battles.
  • Fundamental Sweeps (Scissor, Hook, Sitting Roll Over and Scoop Sweeps)
  • Good Defence against passes (under, around, through and over) from both closed guard and a compromised unlocked guard.

I have to say, Point 3 is the hardest but what I consider the most important for everything Jui-Jitsu.  I rediscovered a lot of the essential concepts again going through this process.  My journey roughly involved the follow training area’s over many training sessions.

  1. Getting Grips
  2. Breaking Posture
  3. Effective use of timing  to exploit the grip fight, posture battle, strength, stacks etc
  4. Timing Submission attacks
  5. Through passes, and counters to these
  6. Compromised broken guard and counters to passes around or over
  7. Timing sweep attacks
  8. Putting it all together

I’m really glossing over details here, but honestly I found having a methodical process really helped.  The most important question I now ask myself is, what is the path of least resistance to get what I ultimately want.  Some things I rediscovered to a deeper personal understanding through this, and I guess to some degree I’ve taken ownership of these concepts.  They include:

  1. Frames, creating and maintaining space
  2. Timing, real jiu-jitsu is in the transitions using your opponent’s movement against them.
  3. Resistance Drilling to improve timing,  seriously I should have done this years ago.
  4. Grips, you don’t have control without them.
  5. Don’t Fight muscle with muscle – it’s so easy to do subconsciously.
  6. Always Attack when you have guard.
  7. Move those hips, get to the side.

Anyway, from where my Closed Guard was technique wise, I now feel it’s far improved. I don’t rely on one trick ponies anymore. It’s consistent and I feel that sticking to basic techniques has actually made me a lot more creative and dangerous.  So overall for the time being I’ve accomplished my mission with Closed Guard.

I will start focusing on Side Control to Mount for the next month or so.  Really my plan is sweep, pass, mount, choke.  I’m going to explore every avenue in achieving the goal of pass. For revision in warm ups I will incorporate some of the cooperative resistance drills for Closed Guard to keep my timing sharp.


13 September 2010

My Love Affair with Sweeps

Broom Part of the last few days I’ve spent a fair bit of time drilling my guard sweeps and going over the basics of them.  The basics are fair from simple when it comes to sweeps.  You can’t really force a sweep. I want to make my sweeps feel effortless for me and my partner - I’m finding the best time is in the transitions of attacking and defending from guard.  Feeling where their weight is committed.

So with that in mind I’ve gone through the basics again of Scissor Sweep, Sitting Rollover sweep, Rolling Shoulder sweep and the Hook Sweep with all starting from closed guard.  They all have advantages and difficult timings.  I’m trying to identify for myself the exact timings to use on each one and also the likely blockages when I’m not doing the technique correctly.

For instance what I’m working on mainly is Scissor Sweep.  I picked this sweep specifically because:

  1. I like it
  2. I can get it but not as often as other sweeps
  3. Rickson Gracie likes it, and there is a good chance he will be teaching it in his seminar soon.

So what are some of the challenges I face for the Scissor Sweep?

  1. Partner puts all his weight down very low, to stop me from getting his weight onto my shin
  2. Opponent pushes down the knee the is across the belly pinning it
  3. Opponent doesn’t open his leg to the side that benefits me transitioning from closed guard to Scissor Sweep.

Still with these challenges I’ve also had some good wins with it.  Mainly the following little tips

  1. Grip, get it first before anything.
  2. Timing – Anticipate and feel their reaction
  3. Space,  don’t get cramped and have no room to move.
  4. Push Pull action to load up their weight onto your shin.
  5. Feel where their weight and posture is, understand it
  6. Drive with your grip hand and commit to coming up onto your knees into mount.
  7. All sweeps have a window of opportunity,  transition once that window is gone.

08 September 2010

Drilling Resistance

Immovable_Object,_Irresistible_ForceI’ve been thinking recently about how much drilling I do.  I worked on a simple sequence  last Saturday that involved an action—>reaction—>action—>reaction round trip sequence.  While in cooperative drills I noticed one of my partners would do the moves, however when we moved to in the hole resistance drilling to train the timing etc he would not perform the moves required so I could get my timing.

I noticed that this actually stifled my ability to train working out the timings for reactions etc.  I’m of the camp that believes in repetition to increase muscle memory, and I’m starting to think that’s what I need to do to improve my reaction timing.

I sometimes feel a step behind in a live roll. I  know what to do, but I’m just not anticipating peoples reaction.  So I end up resisting their reaction instead of using it against them.  I want to make the other person feel like they are one step behind.

So I’m going to see how my strategy of focusing on resistance drilling develops, so for each of the ways we can resist I can feel comfortable in the transition.  From now on I’ll be asking my partners to use resistance, but limiting it to 4-5 options.  So that way I can practise my counters and timing as well.  Over time I hope to bring in more options to the drills.

Hope that makes sense!


27 August 2010

Denial vs Permission

yes_you_can One of the main things I’ve been looking at is the ability to use my grips effectively.  It’s tough to break someone down in the guard.  Naively we start out trying to pull the person down, then pull the person down while disrupting their posts, finally pull the person down while disrupting their posts and using your legs. I was okay at this, generally I was strong than most people, and all those three things made it easy for me.  However it’s a hard fight, and I’m trying to re-assess every part about how I think and perform in Jiu-Jitsu.

So I give them what they want now. I saw a very nice video of Renzo Gracie showing how to get a really deep grip from guard – unfortunately I can’t find it anymore! In essence the technique was to get up on one elbow and straight-arm push the persons shoulder with your other arm.  They react by pushing back, which in turns gives you the nice deep grip from guard. 

The principal behind the technique is more interesting though. He wants the deep grip, he them what they want to actually get what he wants…the deep grip.  So for me I’ve found pushing the person away, and threatening to do a sitting roll over sweep or switch out really forces them to willing come forward breaking their own posture.  Even once I’ve got the grip now, I try threaten their posture in all other directions including back, left and right.  If they aren’t stable, they fall over and I get an easy sweep.  Generally though, they have to react to keep stable, and that reaction is what I’m learning to exploit.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, once you’ve got the grip attack their base with it.  Don’t resist what they are doing, but take it to the extreme end of what they are doing.  If they want to try to break your grip, no problem as they push your hand away, you can release your grip and pull their arm for an arm drag.  If they sit back, no problem go with it and push them backwards.  If they try to hunker down, no problem…pull them in tight and attempt to submit them, above all force a reaction game to occur. 

Don’t fight in the opposite direction, use what they are giving you.  If the person really wants to sit up well you might as well give him what he wants and more – it’s not like you are easily going to be able to break that guys posture down as he will try to deny you that.  Instead don’t deny him the ability to keep posturing up,  give him permission by pushing him away in such a way that he no longer wants to sit up.  Guarantee they won’t expect it, as our natural reaction is one of denial and not permission.

24 August 2010

Get a Grip

ice-cream-flavors Sometimes choice is a bad thing.  Ever gone to an ice-cream store and been inundated by choice,  so many flavours and textures.  The saturation of choice often leaves me confused,  over-whelmed and unable to make a decision.  Needless to say I’ll branch out to include chocolate and occasionally mango or a berry flavours…and that’s it. What you won’t get out of me is choosing the pineapple chunks with Rhubarb choice! So I choose chocolate except there are 5 different types of chocolate which involves even more choices and decisions,  if I take the “World Class” one I’m then left feeling that I might have missed the better “traditional” choice..

As you can see, where I’m from ice-cream selection is serious business.  Jui-Jitsu is similar,  often times I will flounder in guard trying to break the guy down and just not get anywhere.  I was taught this was step 1, but my breaking down had zero focus on grips and so I floundered.  I didn’t think about grips or have a go to grip, and because of that I stalled and never committed to one. I was left with whatever grips fell into my hands so to speak.  This lead me to have a very hard game for me to analyse and improve on.  I had zero consistency and for a long time couldn’t figure out why.

As such, I’ve gone back to basics in this area.  That is I will try to get either the same gi or no-gi grip and that’s it. I only train with Gi btw.  I am slowly finding this is a good way to really delve deeply into the details.  It’s far less confusing as I know what my choice is and I can focus on getting it reliably and what the likely problems are that I will encounter.  The great thing about this is, if a person is really stuffing my grip I’ll ask them to show me what they are doing and can we drill it, then I ask them to help find the counter to the counter!

It’s slow work for me,  I don’t have time to dedicate to BJJ every day but I do want to improve.   Another aspect is that I previously thought of grips as just my hands/arms.  Also, I now realise that my legs/feet are grips too, often equally if not more important than my hands.  I now look at closed guard as a grip with my legs, or mount as a grip with my legs and feet. 

So my basic tip is this.  Pick a grip, a fundamental and basic grip and make it your go to grip. Use it, explore and understand every nuance of it and every counter to the counter-grips people might employ.  Above all else, get a grip!


19 August 2010

Path of Least Resistance

Traffic-Jam_web Hands up those who have experienced peak hour traffic on their drive home.  The annoyance of seeing the other lane travelling way faster and thinking “Damn, I’m in the wrong lane”. Well  I’ve got my drive to and from work down to a fine art.  Through trial and error I know the quickest route home guaranteed.  I’ve got it down to an art that even includes which lane to be in when for which intersection to and from work. This might seem excessive, but different intersections have different blocking points for different lanes – I’m not talking swapping lanes every 300m, just a few times but that makes all the difference.  For one intersection it might be the left lane, for another the right lane.
A person who uses a GPS from my place to work would probably be 5-10 minutes slower than me purely because of poor lane selection.  So “mimicking” someone else's route in the hope of emulating them isn’t going to work without critical thinking and timing.
The same principle applies to BJJ.  Finding those paths of least resistance, and almost anticipating them before they happen takes a lot of time and attention to detail.  I’m slowly learning this,  unfortunately I’m still stuck in the “Oh crap, I should have gone into that lane”.
For me, one aspect is that of using my hips to do the work for me.  From day one I’ve had it spoken to death, but emulating everyone else I fell into similar traps.  While we all knew that, do you think we really did that in an active wrestle?  Take breaking open someone’s closed guard by using your hips and knee to force them open.  It works sometimes, but you get these strong persistent guys that just hold on for dear life. For me it turned into a battle of muscle.  Could I muscle their hips to the ground while pushing that knee down or could they slide up and just keep resisting.
Well a break through occurred last night, and that was try to break their guard using your hips and if that fails transitioning to the other side to repeat the same movement, the effect is cumulative in the space generated between your hips.  There are more subtle details but my partner (massively strong legs) just could not resist as more and more space is generated between our hips.  The advantage was it also took zero effort on my behalf.
As a matter of course now when I do “In-the-Hole” training, as soon as I meet resistance and I can’t progress I stop and ask to drill that exact move to find out how to progress without effort – which then increases both mine and my partners understanding of the mechanics.  In this case the path of least resistance needed good weight balance, hip movement and timing. I consider these nuggets of gold little wins for me that are slowly contributing to me re-building my game from the ground up (no pun intended) one pathway at a time. 
So keep  in mind next time you roll that if you’re using muscle, then you are practicing “Wrestling” and not Jiu-Jitsu.

18 August 2010

Rickson Gracie Seminar Qld

Rickson Gracie Well I’m extremely excited.  Just confirmed that Rickson Gracie is coming to Australia and he will be doing a seminar in QLD.   I’ve already paid and booked but it’s still 6 weeks away and I’m sure I won’t be able to sleep – I’m as excited as a fat kid in a candy store!

I’m really going to focus on improving my own understanding of the basics – Upa, Closed Guard, Scissor Sweeps,  Mount transitions and cross collar choke for the next 6 weeks.  From what I’ve seen and searched for it seems he goes right into depth with concepts and application of these techniques and more.  No flashy tricks or techniques, just good solid basics – exactly the way I like to think about things.

It will be really interesting to see the man himself in action, and hear first hand his philosophy on Jiu-Jitsu.  His core concepts on invisible Jiu-Jitsu and the finer points of the beautiful art.


17 August 2010

Weight Distribution is basic.

strawcamel Something that I’ve used averagely to my advantage in the past is my weight. – unfortunately it’s never been in a focused way.   As part of my going back to basics I have been thinking a lot about what makes up the true basics of BJJ.  Is it a set of 30-40 techniques or is it a smaller set of concepts?

When a person starts out on their BJJ journey they discover a range of techniques ranging from hip escapes (shrimping), to simple arm bars, simple guard sweeps and simple transitions.  I call these simple because they are often taught very simply, and without sufficient detail and practise to work against a seasoned veteran.  So when we get to active rolling we discover all sorts of issues that weren’t covered. For example, the cross choke from mount. Often I see examples such as this for teaching the move.

  1. From mount, open the lapel
  2. Slide your right hand up the lapel (fingers in)  getting a deep grip behind the neck
  3. etc etc

What happens when I can’t get past step two?  Do I need step 1?  It’s hard getting a deep grip against someone that knows what you are trying to achieve.  Try as I might for ages, there were people that were outstanding at defending the neck.  I made a mistake,  I was going for the technique without applying the concepts. I was stuck trying to thrust and out muscle my opponent to get the deep grip, when actually I needed to use some principals of jui-jitsu.

So I spent many weeks experimenting on using my weight to get the grip for me.  Not only can I get the grip quite comfortably now (against an active resisting person who knows the counters to the counters) I also feel like my mount is 10 times more stable against attack. 

How, by using a simple concept of letting my weight do the hard work for me. By locking my grip elbow into their sternum (weight down and to the left) and using my hips (weight forward) to drive my hand forward getting the deeper grip. Let your hip via good weight distribution do the work for you. There are a lot more details and concepts involved, but instead of more details I will say think about where your weight is at all times, and how to apply your weight in a focused way to achieve what you want and spoil what they want ( such as bridge and roll).

I believe the same concept exists when defending, thinking about where their weight is, and how to use it against them.  Now when I train I’m always feeling and thinking about weight distribution and how I can exploit it.  It’s a learning process.

Happy problem solving.


13 August 2010

Basics are far from Simple

atomSmallWhy is it we all get caught up in the latest and greatest technique,  it’s going to change your game, why because no body knows it yet. Inverted Triangles, Brabo-Chokes, Gogoplatas, Mission Control,  X-Guard,  De La Riva, Reverse Arm bars from back control…the list goes on.

In my time leading up to getting my blue belt I noticed a trend with my school, and all other schools around it.  It seemed that every week we were learning something new, 5 new submissions,  4 new De La Riva Sweeps, then 3 new Half-Guard Sweeps.  Crazy names for them all.  In the course of a month I probably learnt 25 “new” submissions and 15 new sweeps along with practicing from 4 different guards.

Each lesson I would think, wow this really works.  Everyone else would think the same thing.  Then, inevitable the counter would be discovered and before we knew it we were moving onto the next “new” technique since that old one no longer worked in rolling against our peers.

So what happened, over the course of my time I amassed quite a few techniques, and yet I was a master at none.  After 2 years training my game was convoluted and often revolved around tricks the opponent didn’t know.  I could get submissions, usually lots of Kimura’s against lower levels, but we never studied the basics again except in beginner classes and that was only at a simplistic level.

Basics techniques work, anyone who doubts this just needs to watch Roger Gracie against other World Champions.  They just don’t work in the simple way they are generally taught. Everyone should have been taught a X-Choke from mount within the first few weeks,  yet how many people can do it even against a person of equal or greater skill and size that knows it’s coming?

I came across this great interview with Ryan Hall and how he is rebuilding his entire game around the basics.


So I wanted this blog for myself, being an older, slower grappler that doesn’t have the time or inclination to spend 10+hrs a week on training.

It’s time for myself to start training smarter and not harder.